He may be more charming, she is more professionally successful.
Her social network is stronger, his family is nicer.
The most obvious example being the rich, old/ugly guy with the beautiful/young, dim woman.
Each of their socially identified strengths compensates for the others' shortcomings.
The net sum is a lopsided couple that makes sense in the judging eyes of the public.
But in a less exaggerated scenario, we find someone whose math adds up to a similar sum of our own.
Or under suspicion he will wander -- because he is cuter.
Or that the advantage of his youth overrides my seniority, and my status as a mother -- while an positive in the eyes of many -- is generally considered a hinderance on the dating scene.
And so in the dance of early courtship I watch myself from afar, noting the new ease in which I lean easily into his seduction -- something that I would not have had the confidence for in my younger, childless years.
Our age difference has made me feel a little vulnerable, even though it is just a few years.
Age is like any other social marker: beauty, money, charm, professional success, being light on the emotional baggage and heavy on the friends and family resources.